Marijuana improves night vision of tadpoles, study suggests

August 25th, 2016

Marijuana improves night vision of tadpoles, suggests a newly published study: “Endocannabinoid signaling enhances visual responses through modulation of intracellular chloride levels in retinal ganglion cells,” Loïs S Miraucourt, Jennifer Tsui, Delphine Gobert, Jean-François Desjardins, Anne Schohl, Mari Sild, Perry Spratt, Annie Castonguay, Yves De Koninck, Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, Paul W Wiseman, and Edward S Ruthazer, eLife, 2016;5:e15932.

The authors, at McGill University, Canada; University of La Verne, United States; University of California, San Francisco, United States; Université Laval, Canada; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States; Kennedy Krieger Institute, United States, report:


“Type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) are widely expressed in the vertebrate retina, but the role of endocannabinoids in vision is not fully understood. Here, we identified a novel mechanism underlying a CB1R-mediated increase in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) intrinsic excitability acting through AMPK-dependent inhibition of NKCC1 activity. Clomeleon imaging and patch clamp recordings revealed that inhibition of NKCC1 downstream of CB1R activation reduces intracellular Cl− levels in RGCs, hyperpolarizing the resting membrane potential. We confirmed that such hyperpolarization enhances RGC action potential firing in response to subsequent depolarization, consistent with the increased intrinsic excitability of RGCs observed with CB1R activation. Using a dot avoidance assay in freely swimming Xenopus tadpoles, we demonstrate that CB1R activation markedly improves visual contrast sensitivity under low-light conditions.”

Charlie Fidelman provides further details, in the Montreal Gazette, under the headline “Pot improves night vision — in tadpoles, study finds“.

(Thanks to Christie Rowe for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS (Distantly related): The 2000 Ig Nobel Prize for biology was awarded to Richard Wassersug of Dalhousie University (now at U British Columbia) for his first-hand report, “On the Comparative Palatability of Some Dry-Season Tadpoles from Costa Rica.” [Published in The American Midland Naturalist, vol. 86, no. 1, July 1971, pp. 101-9.]


The (carbon) footprints of criminals (new study)

August 25th, 2016

A news release from the University of Surrey, UK, draws attention to the first study to have systematically assessed the carbon footprint of UK crimes. The research team found that :-

“[…] crime committed in 2011 in England and Wales gave rise to over 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. Burglary resulted in the largest proportion of the total footprint (30%), because of the carbon associated with replacing stolen/damaged goods. Emissions arising from criminal justice system services also accounted for a large proportion (21% of all offenses; 49% of police recorded offenses).”


However, the urgent requirement to mitigate the UK’s carbon footprint – simply by reducing crime levels – is not necessarily a straightforward option :

“As an example, we consider the impact of reducing domestic burglary by 5%. Calculating this is inherently uncertain given that it depends on assumptions concerning how money would be spent in the absence of crime. We find the most likely rebound effect (our medium estimate) is an increase in emissions of 2%.[our emphasis].

See: ‘Addressing the Carbon-Crime Blind Spot: A Carbon Footprint Approach’ in the Journal of Industrial Ecology, early view, June 2016.

Smelly people in the office [podcast #78]

August 24th, 2016

Smelly people in the smelly workplace — that’s the dilemma and joy of this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams  — with dramatic readings by FYFD fluid dynamicist Nicole Sharp — tells about:riach


The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, on the CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

Ig Nobel Prize-winning Bug-splat book author, on the Tonight Show

August 23rd, 2016

In 1997, right after Mark Hostetler won his Ig Nobel Prize, NBC’s The Tonight Show invited him to be on their program. Here’s edited video of that:

The 1997 Ig Nobel Prize for entomology was awarded to Mark Hostetler of the University of Florida, for his scholarly book, “That Gunk on Your Car,” which identifies the insect splats that appear on automobile windows. [The book is published by Ten Speed Press.]


Ragnhild Bjørknes joins The Luxuriant Flowing, Former, or Facial Hair Club for Social Scientists (LFFFHCfSS)

August 23rd, 2016

Ragnhild Bjørknes has joined The Luxuriant Flowing, Former, or Facial Hair Club for Social Scientists (LFFFHCfSS). Ida Marie Bjørknes, who nominated her, says:

She is an associate professor at the Faculty of Psychology at the University of Bergen in Norway, and more importantly – she has great hair! I am her sister and I instantly thought that she belongs in this luxurious club when I first heard about it at the Ig Nobel Prize show at the University of Oslo, where I work.

Sadly, I cannot nominate myself since I am not a researcher, and also because of my bleached and broken hair. My sister on the other hand has long, flowing, natural chocolate brown, beautiful hair, as you can see in the picture.

Ragnhild Bjørknes, Ph.D, LFFFHCfSS
Professor, Faculty of Psychology
University of Bergen
Bergen, Norway

Solstrand, Norway 20141104: Samling på Solstrand. Foto: Paul S. Amundsen